By Railfan & Railroad Staff
HOTLUM, Calif. — Union Pacific has reopened its Black Butte Subdivision a month earlier than anticipated after it rebuilt a 1,200-foot long, 150-foot high bridge that was heavily damaged in a wildfire earlier this summer. On Sunday, the first train since June crossed the Dry Canyon Bridge near Hotlum, Calif.
UP had originally estimated that the bridge would be rebuilt by September, but according to spokesperson Robynn Tysver, the railroad was able to resume operations earlier due to employee’s tireless efforts to reopen the route. The 26,000-acre Lava Fire reached the bridge early on the morning of June 29, and although UP had dispatched a fire train to the scene, they couldn’t get close enough to save it. “We could see the bridge was on fire – smoke was all around it and there were small spot fires all over. At that point, we couldn’t get close enough with the water tanks because the track was compromised,” said Jamie Hill, director of bridge maintenance and engineering.
The damaged Dry Creek Bridge earlier this month.
The fire also destroyed nine miles of track. As a result of the fire, Amtrak was busing Coast Starlight passengers between Klamath Falls to Sacramento. That was expected to last another month. It’s unclear if the news of the bridge’s opening will change that timeline. UP was also warning customers to expect continued delays.
“Although service across the bridge will be restored soon, we expect to see continued transit delays over the next few weeks as we reposition resources. We plan to stage inbound trains at strategic locations to assist in working off the backlog of trains, which will help expedite delivery to customers once the bridge has reopened,” officials wrote.